Grand Slam Champions
Ireland capped-off a superb 2023 Six Nations by defeating England 29-16 bonus-point victory over an England side reduced to 10 men.
Ireland’s Six Nations success couldn’t have arrived at a more fitting time or place. The St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were running high, Ireland had dominated the entire tournament, and the Aviva Stadium was rocking.
Andy Farell’s men were heavy favourites in their match against the struggling England, but the victory will be celebrated by Ireland fans nonetheless. England performed respectably, but the gulf in quality between the two sides proved to be too much in the end.
Two tries from Dan Sheenan, as well as scores by Rob Herring and Robbie Henshaw put England to the sword and condemned them to a below-par Six Nations. With the World Cup just around the corner, Steve Borthwick has a lot of work to do if he wishes to build England back into the force they used to be.
Steward’s Controversial Red
One of the biggest talking points in the game came when England’s Freddie Steward was sent off just before half-time. The Leicester Tigers man was dismissed after his elbow made contact with Hugo Keenan’s head - an incident that looked inevitable due to both players’ direction of travel.
The sending-off killed any chances of an unlikely England success, but nothing should be taken away from Ireland - whose players achieved a Grand Slam victory and look to be one of the shoe-ins for the upcoming World Cup in France.
The 2023 Six Nations marks the fourth time Ireland have concluded the tournament with a flawless record. As the dust settles on this year’s edition, Andy Farrell’s side will likely join the heroes of 1948, 2009, and 2018 in the pantheon of great Irish sides. An emotional Johnny Sexton, a stalwart of the Irish game for so many years, described the victory as ‘’a dream’’ and the legend hoped that his country’s success didn't end here.
Rugby World Cup Favourites
The 2023 World Cup is scheduled to start on 8 September 2023 and Ireland are among the favourites for glory, along with France, New Zealand, and the defending champions South Africa.
The Irish will take inspiration from the fact that England - the only team from the Northern Hemisphere to win the World Cup - warmed up for their 2003 success with a Grand Slam victory of their own. Andy Farrell’s side have also beaten the All Blacks twice and defeated the impressive France side just a few weeks ago.
France will have the advantage of playing at their own stadiums, however, and Les Bleus will hope to become the fourth team to have won the World Cup whilst hosting it.
There is also, of course, the usual threat from New Zealand and South Africa - two of the most successful teams in rugby World Cup history. Whilst it’s far too soon to make predictions, there are plenty of encouraging signs for Ireland fans to take ahead of the World Cup and there’s every chance that the current generation of players can further write their names into Irish folklore by delivering the prize that has forever eluded them.
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